Simple ideas for getting to know your reader better.
Imagine you’re hosting a family reunion. Great granny is there, your teenage niece and that awkward in law who you all avoid. As host you probably have to mingle, making small talk as you go to help everyone relax and enjoy themselves.
With each family member, each generation and each family odd bod, you adjust what you say as well as how you say it. What you say to great granny is different to what you say to toddler Tom, awkward in law and quirky cousin Kate.
You ask young Charlie how his football is going and if he’d like the kit your son has grown out of and you joke with your cousin about the effects of growing old. In other words you tweak and adjust your conversation to all the different individuals so that it’s relevant and interesting to them. Otherwise you’d just be the family bore who only ever talks about themselves!
Don’t be the bore or sender of spam!
And that’s what you need to do with your writing in order for it to really resonate. Adjust it. Perhaps only slightly but adjust it so that you use the words and style that is most appropriate for your target audience. Talk about things that you know will interest them. Use analogies they’ll relate to. In other words, talk to them in their language.
You do so instinctively at your family party because you know everyone so well. And that’s what you need to do with your reader. Get to know as much as you possibly can about who you are writing to; your avatar, your persona, your ideal client and then talk to them in a way they will relate to.
And yes I said talk to them, not write to them. Because you want your writing to be personal and conversational too. Not the Dear Sir sort of stuff we all so often receive.
When I started out, I found pinning down my ideal target really difficult for a number of reasons. First, and this is a common one, I had trouble with the idea of writing to someone specific, for fear of alienating lots of other potential clients.
But the bottom line is you just have to get your head around this. If you try and write to everyone, you will engage no one, it’s that simple. Your writing will come across as bland and spiritless. You have to pin down who your target is as specifically as possible and write just for them. It may be a leap of faith but you’ll get much, much better results if you do!
This might seem obvious but it’s often harder than you think. Make sure you have a real understanding of the problems that your product or services solve. Think about what is different about you and your business, how do you transform lives rather than the more technical aspects of your products. Make sure you know and understand your business personality and how you want to be perceived.
I’ll be dealing with this next week, so if you’re not sure about it, stick around for that one.
The good news
My other problem was, I held on to a belief that I needed to do complex and expensive market research in order to get the information I needed about my audience. But actually, although there are lots of sophisticated things you can do to find out more about your target, there’s a lot of commons sense and everyday stuff you can do too without spending a dime.
Identify who your target is. Age, sex, background, income etc. If needs be give them a name and even a photo. Start with any existing customers or your data base. What common features do they have and what are your most popular products? What can you learn from this? What can you learn from your social media followers and their profiles? What do they like and what about your competitors? What do you know about their client base?
Where are your ideal clients hanging out? Are there online forums where you might find them, LinkedIn groups or Facebook pages? What pages or posts do they like and what do they share? Perhaps they actually meet somewhere (whoa, can you imagine that!).
But a word of caution. I’m not suggesting you tout your wares in these places. I’m suggesting you watch and learn. What are they discussing, what language do they use and what questions come up over and over again? You’ll learn a lot about these people by just mingling a bit and listening to what’s being said.
Then hop on over into their shoes for a bit and try and see life from their point of view. What hobbies do they enjoy? What makes them mad? What makes them laugh out loud?
More simple stuff
What about doing a survey or just asking for feedback? Keep surveys short and easy (and consider an incentive) or just ask your best clients what they need more of or like best. If you can, why not meet them for coffee and find out more about them?
Make sure that whatever you learn, you write down in a fact file. Some of the information may not be relevant but the more you learn and gather, the more you can put together a really precise picture of who you are writing to. And that means that when you write to them, it will be really personal to them. You’ll consciously and unconsciously tweak your language and your content because you know what they like, how they talk and what interests them.
Make it personal
Better still, as you get to know your reader better, they’ll get a really personal experience from you. It should feel like you are writing just to them, that one individual, Joe Bloggs. In fact I know so much about my avatar that I know what your hobbies are, where you holiday and where your children go to school (ok well not quite because that’s a bit creepy but you get the gist).
Don’t shelve this for another day
I know you’ve got a lot on. I know researching your target audience seems like one more thing that you have to do. So to make it easier, why not commit to finding out just one thing a day about your target audience for the next 7 days. Just one thing a day. See what you learn and then take it from there.
Next week, the fun part … finding your brand personality and voice! So please stick around.